Farewell to High School Class of 2013!!!

IMG_0637[1]After six years of watching my son go from an excited sixth grader who’s lifetime goal it was to play the music he heard while watching The Lord of the Rings, and learning to play the bass, we have reached another major milestone: graduating from high school.

Into The Woods- Youth Orchestra- 2011

Into The Woods- Youth Orchestra- 2011

For the past four years, Kris has matured not only as a young man, but also as a musician. His musical accomplishments are dreams that have come to fruition. Some of the most memorable high lights included: winning the position of Principle Bass Player for the Alliance Theater production of the Broadway musical, Into the Woods (2011), and a spot in the 2012 and 2013 Statewide Honor Orchestra. He was also a member of the Mount Zion High School Jazz Band and has won awards there as well. But as I write,  my eyes fill with tears knowing  my son, whom I have watched grow from an infant with long legs and arms, to a 6” 2′ man, is about to embark on another journey in his life…college. In the fall he will start his pursuit of a Bachelor of Music degree and has been accepted into the Clayton State University Music Program. His goal is to become a music teacher and give back to the community and youth by teaching the benefits of music in our lives.

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Chilling at home playing the bass guitar.

Watching him walk the Georgia Dome football field among the other talented kids (his friends) who have come in and out of my home over the past few years was a moment I will never forget. Tears didn’t come to my eyes until after the ceremony when we found him in the courtyard. It was a moment of tears for our entire family: our first born has moved into adulthood.

One down…three more to go! 🙂

Here are some of my favorite musical highlights: 

The Mount Zion High School Jazz Band performing Livin’ My Life Like It’s Golden by Jill Scott

Palladio, by Karl Jenkins. This song was featured in a diamond commercial, one I am sure you’ll recognize the moment it comes on.  These was performed by the 2013 Georgia All-State Honor Orchestra. By the way, they learned this and three other difficult pieces of music in 8 hours! As the orchestra director, Thomas Joiner, pointed out, professionals often take weeks to learn these pieces. I couldn’t be prouder!

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

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2012 Georgia Statewide Honor Orchestra Features Two Students from Clayton County

Kristoffer and Emily warm up before rehearsal starts.

It’s 8:55 am on April 14th.


While most students are home sleeping on a Saturday morning, Kristoffer Caine and Emily Dunn are wide awake, tuning their instruments in preparation for rehearsal to begin. The moment Professor Emeritus, Dean Angeles, walks onto the podium, the music stops and all talking ceases. He instructs the principle members of each section of the orchestra to lead the members in tuning their instruments. Once that is done, he introduces himself and informs them his latest direction was of the New York State All-State Orchestra.
Then practice begins.
This group of orchestra members was comprised of high school students ages 15 – 18.  Students of various ethnic backgrounds and from all over the state converged at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, some from as far away as Savannah.
This gathering was the first time a Statewide Honor Orchestra was formed. The orchestra was made up of students who auditioned for the Georgia All-State Orchestra. It was not an easy road. First round auditions for the All-State Orchestra started back in late September, early October of 2011, and were held at Mundy’s Mill High School in Clayton County. Hundreds of students from across the state auditioned. The number decreased and competition for the available spots grew fiercer as second round auditions approached in February.
Professor Emeritus, Dean Angeles, directs the orchestra. 
The number of talented students vying for the positions must have been close, because for the first time, a Statewide Honor Orchestra was put together for students who did not make the cut for All-State Orchestra. These students are being recognized for their stellar playing abilities. As a result, they were offered the opportunity to come together for one day of practice, to socialize with their peers, and to perform for friends, family, and the community.
Parents arrived early Saturday at Sprayberry High School to drop off their kids. Some waited all day, while their son or daughter practiced, until it was time for the performance later that evening. For six hours, the kids practiced, taking two breaks for lunch and dinner, as well as short breathers to stretch their legs, and at times find their focus again, before returning for the intense practice the director put them through. Professor Emeritus, Dean Angeles has conducted the Loyola University Chamber and Symphony Orchestra as well as coordinated a comprehensive string program for the organization from 1980 to 2006. Most recently, he was inducted into the Southwestern College Fine Arts Hall of Fame in Winfield, Kansas in April, 2011.
Minutes before taking the stage. 

Clayton County had two students who were invited to participate in the All-State Honor Orchestra, and amazingly, both students are from the same school. Junior, Kristoffer Caine, and Freshman, Emily Dunn are both students of the Fine Arts Magnet Program at Mount Zion High School, under the direction of Krissy Davis. Both play the Bass. For both students, being selected for this orchestra was a major achievement. For Kristoffer, who made the first round for High School All-State Orchestra last year, but not the second, it was an accomplishment. Emily participated in the Middle School All-State Orchestra, last year, as well as High School All-State Honors this year, so for her, this is a glimpse of great things yet to come. Once during practice, the director paused to compliment the Bass section, saying they were by far one of the best he’s worked with in years. Never once did he have to work on any part of the music with them. He was impressed since they have the hardest instrument to play.

After six hours of practice on music most kids had only received five days in advance, they were ready to perform on stage.
Before a note was played, the director made this comment to audience: “To put an orchestra together in six hours…you don’t even do that with a professional orchestra. I am so very pleased with these young people for what they’ve done….I’m impressed.” The first piece played, was Serenade for Strings, by Edward Elgar, a three piece movement lasting ten minutes. When it was done, he turned around and said: “You have no idea how difficult that piece is. I have some of my university students in the Atlanta area that teach (and) played that piece, and rest assured, we had at least 6 weeks to put that together. These young people had six hours…It’s very impressive.”

 Congratulations to Kristoffer Caine and Emily Dunn for representing the Fine Arts Magnet Program at Mount Zion High School and the Clayton County School System. Programs and opportunities like this are yet another example why music should be kept in our schools.
*Side note, I am so proud of my son and his musical accomplishments this year!*

Written by,
M.J. Kane

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It DOES Take A Year To Write Your Prose!!!!

My collection: Roberts, Brockmann, Evanovich, and yes that IS Twilight, and it belongs to me, not my daughter!
How in the @&*% does Nora Roberts manage to publish three to four books a year under two different pen names, yet still have time to water and plant her garden?!?!?!?!?????
Is there a ghost writer in her house?
I love Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb. I have twenty-five of my favorite books penned by her in my collection. Talk about inspiration! It seems like every few months I walk by the book section of my local grocery store and find two brand new books sitting on the shelf, one in each of her pen names. Wow, the woman is good.
I watched an interview with her a year ago, and they asked her about her writing schedule. Yeah, she definitely has one, along with an office built by her husband where she writes. She also follows a strict writing routine that does in fact leave her time for her favorite past time, gardening. I, on the other hand, can’t seem to write a schedule let alone follow one! Plus, my four kids, ages ten to sixteen, are at a stage in life where they have various activities – orchestra, jazz band, art, book club, and etc. – that demand I spend time taking them places. (Finding Creative Ways to Edit While Running My Household) Nora’s children, on the other hand, are all grown. Her writing career started years ago when her boys were young, and she was a single mom. What ever she did to get her career started and make it to the level of success she’s seen over the years, I have to give her props. If I ever have the opportunity to meet her, I’m going to demand tips.
But, until then, I have to stick to what I’ve learned.
When I first began my writing journey, I checked out books from the library dealing with the art of writing. I remember one book, This Year You Write Your Novel, by well-known author, Walter Mosely. He is the famed author of books such as Devil in a Blue Dress, (later turned into a movie staring Denzel Washington), and many others. One look at the title and I scoffed, thinking, ‘A year? Yeah right. I’ve written my first three books already…in nine months!’
Sigh…..Don’t I feel like an idiot! Well, at least I had some form of confidence that encouraged me to keep going; even when I found out I still had a lot to work on!
And now, two years later, I’m just beginning to see the EXIT sign as I near completion of my first book. In December my editor will get her hands on the manuscript, but the journey won’t end there. Once she sprinkles her fairy dust on it, it will come back for yet another rewrite. I’m praying that will be the last one, because the characters for the next book are tired of waiting.
That said, I’d like to share with you:
M.J. Kane’s Top Ten Things I’ve Learned During My Writing Journey:
(Check out the links, they go back to related blogs)
10. Research comes in many forms. Don’t be afraid to use them!
If this is your first time writing a novel, I’m sure you’ve already stockpiled your personal library with books on writing and editing to get you started. My local library was a great place to find books, but not all can be found there. Tip: Hang out at your local book store (if you can still find one) Take pen and paper and cruise the shelves for books on writing and writing in your genre. Find a nice corner, and take notes. It’s free, and the access to the information you seek is priceless. Scan the Internet for articles and blogs on writing – such as this one – and pick up pointers from those who have been in the game longer than you have. There’s a wealth of advice to be found. (Finding the Correct Genre for your Prose)
9. Patience, coffee, and a box of chocolate.
Screen savers can be inspirational! Oh yeah and the butterflies, too! LOL!

Patience is key when working on your character back story, story plots, and settings. It takes time to discover who your characters are and what motivates them. This amount of research takes more than a few hours. Sometimes it can take days. Find a in-depth character profile chart that works for you. Settle in with your coffee, something sweet, and get to know your characters intimately. It’s the only way for your characters to leave the one/two dimensional life on paper and become three-dimensional. From there, the story will grow and find a life of its own. (The Importance of Writing Outlines – I’m Glad I Did!- Part 2)

8. Find music that inspires you to write and edit too!
Now that you’ve got your outline and discovered your characters, you need to find inspiration. Music can establish the mood of a scene, influence the story’s flow, or even explain what a character is feeling when they can’t say it themselves. (Does Your Story Have a Soundtrack?)
7. Passive Word Check List.
This is like holding a magic wand in your hand when editing. Search for words that make the passages wordy or boring because you use them repeatedly. The trick to writing a story that does not bore your readers is to paint your prose with colorful and creative ways that express your characters emotions and thoughts. My ‘kryptonite’ list includes the words:  was, that, saw, feel, look, and see for starters. Then there are words that are often misused: a/an, to/too, its/it’s. My personal list has forty-one words/phrases I check before the chapter is marked ‘edited’. This list came from words my critique partners pointed out as they read my work. (Digital Audio Recording Devices + Editing = ??????)

6. Thesaurus and dictionary.
This is the answer to the dreaded passive word check list. If your brain is fried and you can’t think creatively, this is your life line. Not sure if that word will fit correctly in your sentence, use the dictionary. Need to find another way to say ‘see’…thesaurus is the way to go.

5. A locked door and a good pair of headphones can make any workspace personal.
The beauty of fall!

Unfortunately, not everyone can have a dream writing space like Nora, but you can create your own slice of writing heaven. Mine is in my bedroom where my desk is located next to a big picture window. I enjoy watching the trees change color and the squirrels run around collecting food for winter. As long as the door is locked and the head phones are on high, I can ignore the knocking and get into a scene…lol, at least that’s the plan. Still haven’t got the kiddies to go along with the plan. For some reason, every time I start working on a love scene, that’s the time ALL of them suddenly need my attention. Talk about a mood killer! (The Dynamics of Writing a Love Scene)

4.  Beta Readers, what can I say?
So, you’ve burned up brain cells and blown a few fuses to create your literary perfection, it’s time to take that baby on a test run. Find your beta readers, whether they are critique partners, family members, or a friend you’ve made on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social networking site. You need real feedback. If you can get someone who writes the same genre as you, they can let you know if your MS fits the genre or if you’ve missed something. Finding someone who doesn’t normally read your genre and hooking them with your story can build confidence. That means you’ve got what it takes to tell a strong story. (The Value of Critique Partners and Beta Readers)
3. Join social networking sites for support, marketing and promotion.
Most of us have already joined Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. Now’s there’s Google plus, Linkedin, Klout and a god only knows how many more. In this day and age, you can never have enough ways to connect to other writers for advice and support. If you haven’t done it yet, start writing a blog. It’s not only a great way to share your work with others, it’s also a way to create a fan base and let people know what you’re doing.
2. Find an editor!
Whether your goal is to self-publish, e-publish, or try your luck with the selling your book to one of the big publishing houses, an editor is key! Readers are picky and will not fail to notice if your story has not received that ‘professional’ touch. Not everyone can be an English major and know every writing rule known to man. That’s why God created editors! But seriously, we all need them. It will cost some money, but having that touch added to your work will separate your hard work from those who aren’t willing to put in the work. Think about it, we’ve all read a book written by a well-known author distributed by a major publishing house and have found some sort of grammatical or technical error. So, Indie published authors don’t fear. Do the best you can, work with an editor, and understand: you can’t please everybody. No matter what you do, somebody is NOT going to like something about your story and find a reason to criticize it. Look at it this way — at least they read it. (The Joys – and Woes – of Editing)
1. Have the will and desire to try again and again until you get the story right, no matter how many re-writes/edits it takes.
That statement pretty much says it all. If you don’t have the desire to work through the ups and downs of telling the story and doing the best you can, then maybe becoming an author is not for you. Admit defeat and try your hand at something else. But if you step away and find you can’t keep your mind off writing and your characters keep nagging you to tell their story, try again. Take a writing class, read more books on writing. Read books in your genre and see what it is they have done to make them become successful. Then try again. (Finding Inspiration…Again!)
With that said, Breaktime is over, back to work.  I’m off to work on my second round of edits….
Until next time, WRITE WELL!!!!!

Does Your Story Have A Soundtrack?

Soundtracks. They can be found on T.V. shows, movies, and commercials. Even life has a soundtrack.

Have you ever found yourself doing random things like, cleaning the kitchen, walking down the isle at Wal-Mart, or sitting through the dreaded school conference bored to death and your mind wanders…a random song comes out of no where, yet fits the moment perfectly?

That’s your personal soundtrack. Or laugh track, depends on the moment. LOL!

Every author finds inspiration for their story somehow, be it life experiences, a television program, newspaper article, you know the drill. Music is a big thing in my household. With my husband being a music producer, there are artist coming through at least once a week to record. If not, then he is always working on a new track, playing it for everyone to hear. My son, who recently finished playing in the Youth Orchestra for the Alliance Theater, plays the string bass and bass guitar. Suffice it to say, music is always playing around here, no matter what time of day. Because of that, the combination of my husband and son’s artistic abilities were the bases of one of my main characters in A Heart Not Easily Broken, Brian Young. 

While writing the first book of The Butterfly Memoirs Series, I ran across the perfect song for Brian, Butterfly, by Crazy Town. No the title of the song has nothing to do with the series, just pure coincidence. I’ve been driving my kids crazy – no pun intended – for the past two years listening to this song. It’s the first track on “Mom’s Driving Music’ CD in the car. If I’m driving and a scene is formulating in my head, the poor kids are held hostage as I keep hitting the repeat button over and over again. To bad! It works for me!

The bass line played in this song speaks to me. Brian is a bass guitar player in a band called Diverse Nation. When he meets his love interest, Ebony Campbell, he’s playing in a night club when he spies her dancing in front of the stage. One look and he’s hooked. When I picture this scene in my head, I can imagine him, eyes glued to her curvaceous body as her hips sway, arms held over her head and eyes closed, lost in the music. He is captivated, his fingers strum the bass line while the band does a cover version of the song. Listen to the song…can you picture it?
 

 Another song that inspires me while writing the women in my books is Miss Independent, by Ne Yo.

It sets the stage for the strong female characters I write in my series. In truth, it’s also the type of woman my male leads are looking for. The kind of woman that can stop them in their tracks and make them take stock of what she has to offer. She’s strong, hardworking and has her own goals in mind. She will never be needy, yet always appreciate what the man in her life has to offer.

When editing, I refuse to listen to anything with words. Instead, I pull out my list of instrumentals.While working through my dreaded forty-six word Passive Words/Phrases list, my favorite song to listen to  is Fantasy and Fables, by KTEK.  Follow the link to track number 16. (Shameless promotion, this song was produced by my husband, so if you follow this blog, you MUST listen to it. I promise it won’t disappoint!)

Other songs that have made their way into my writing soundtrack include,  Making Love In the Rain, by Herb Alpert -great for writing love scenes- and Through the Bamboo Forest, a song from the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, performed by Yo Yo Ma. A hauntingly beautiful song I can feel in my soul, I pull this track out when I’m deep in editing mode and need to ‘be’ my character in order to write what it is they see, think, hear and feel. Since I write in first person, I put my heart and soul into every action and statement made by the characters in order for them to become so realistic, I can hear their thoughts. I put on my headphones and the song on repeat. It’s amazing how focused I get and how much can be accomplished while this song plays.

 

So, these are the songs that fill my head and inspire me while I write. What do you like to listen too? Do your characters have a story that is inspired by a song? Please share!

MJ

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